Tory conference: Johnson warns against transport cuts

Boris Johnson kicks off his election campaign at the Conservative conference

London Mayor Boris Johnson has warned the coalition government not to cut the city's transport budget for "short-term political gain".

Speaking at the Conservative annual conference, he said investment in trains, buses and the Tube would allow the capital to be the "locomotive" of the UK's economic recovery.

He also promised measures to lure young people away from gangs.

But Labour accused Mr Johnson of being "out of touch" with Londoners.

During a speech laded with jokes and asides, Mr Johnson argued that other parts of the country - such as Manchester, where the Conservatives are meeting - relied on London to ensure their economic success.

'Wheel deal'

He said: "Thanks to the common sense of this coalition government, the settlement we got last year, we not only have the Tube upgrades, we have Crossrail and Thameslink, which is going to be as fantastic as Crossrail.

"I will not allow that investment and these vital improvements to be jeopardised for a short-term political gain."

Directly addressing Prime Minister David Cameron, who was in the audience, he added: "I say to my friends in the Treasury - not all of whom I see here; well, Dave's here - Franklin D Roosevelt offered a New Deal.

"I give you the 'wheel deal': you help us to invest in transport infrastructure and we in London will supply the locomotive of the UK economy."

He also talked about riots which devastated several areas of London in August, after trouble began in Tottenham.

He promised that about 25 schools would set up out-of-hours clubs, aimed at overcoming peer pressure to join gangs - and allowing young people to resist intimidation to do so.

Meanwhile people who swear at police can "expect to be arrested" in future, he added.

'Broom brigade'

Mr Johnson praised Londoners for their response to the riots, saying: "I'll tell you who did stand up for London: it was that chap who sat on that rioter's head, that woman who made the fantastic speech in Hackney and scared them all off...

"It was the restaurant workers who fought them off with rolling pins and saucepans. It was the broom brigade of Clapham who stood up for London. Those people represented the true spirit of London."

He added that police numbers in England's capital city would be kept at "safe" levels, despite spending cuts.

Mr Johnson, who is standing for re-election in next year's mayoral contest, received a standing ovation when he announced that the last "bendy buses" introduced by his Labour predecessor Ken Livingstone would be off the streets by Christmas.

In an interview for BBC Two's Newsnight, Mr Johnson said there was "not a snowball's chance in Hades" of his running for Parliament while serving as mayor, adding: "I don't think I will do another big job in politics after this."

'Waffle'

In response to the mayor's speech, Mr Livingstone said: "Today we saw the real Boris Johnson - an out-of-touch Conservative, failing to put ordinary Londoners first on the issues that really affect them, from rising fares to police cuts.

"He gave no hope to Londoners facing another steep fare rise this January, which will mean bus fares are up 56% under a Tory mayor, and gave no hard commitment on police numbers, which are in fact due to fall by 1,800 according to his own Metropolitan Police figures.

"Under the Conservatives, Londoners are less well off and increasingly less safe, under a moonlighting mayor who meets bankers more than the police. People in London are feeling the squeeze but Boris Johnson doesn't see it."

And Brian Paddick, the former police chief and Liberal Democrat candidate for mayor in 2012, said London "deserved a serious mayor who has experience of keeping people safe and dealing with crime".

"Boris Johnson's speech was full of waffle because he's done so little for London as mayor.

"He claims other people's achievements as his own because he doesn't have any himself and he clearly has no vision for the city's future."

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